Thursday, January 29, 2015


Aerial shot of Kawana Beach, Kawana Island and Kawana Waters
Coolum Beach looking north towards Sunshine Beach at the far, far end

A 1964 Holden EH Station Wagon
The view from our Elanda Street house - from the kitchen, dining and deck areas

Two photos of a Barn Owl...just like Winston was.

Graphite sketch drawn by me.

Sasha settled in immediately. He didn’t even need a guided tour through the Coolum house and its surrounds. He was home; nothing more was required by him other than that knowledge.

Without missing a beat it was as if he’d never been away. He was a little scrawny when he re-entered my life, but he regained weight quickly.  Bowls of fresh meat and freshly-caught fish were at his disposal, day and night.  Ruska and he had their own food bowls. They ate side by side sharing their stories, catching up on old times and all in between, over breakfast and dinner. Sasha, of course, had more adventure tales to tell. Ruska was a willing listener.  No jealousy existed between the two.  They’d always gotten on well together. Their relationship didn't change when they were reunited; good mates they remained.

Our days of leisure came to an end.  Randall gained employment as a real estate salesman at an agency in Kawana, a coastal area south of Coolum; further south of Mooloolaba. 

Not long afterwards I decided it was time I, too, got my finger out.  Our fishing rods, reels and tackle were hung up to dry. Our casual attire and our fishing clothes were replaced by our business faces and wardrobes.  The time had arrived to put away our toys; it was time to get serious.

On a spontaneous whim one morning I jumped aboard the Magnette and headed off to do some door-knocking of my own.  I didn’t travel far.  The first office door I knocked on was at Peregian Beach, a couple of kilometers north of Coolum.  The office of T. M. Burke Real Estate Developers was situated in the Peregian Shopping Centre.  In 1979 the shopping centre was still relatively small, consisting of a hairdresser’s salon, a solicitors office, a privately-owned mixed business, a gift shop, a Peter Sharpe Realty (a one-man operated real estate office at the rear of Burke’s premises), and I think, from memory, there was a doctor’s surgery and a pharmacy somewhere in the equation.

T. M. Burke had been active developers on the Sunshine Coast since 1929, first building bridges across Doonella Lake and Weyba Creek at Tewantin and Noosaville, respectively on behalf of the shire council, for which Burke received 470 acres of land.  Land sales fell into the doldrums, so the land remained undeveloped for many years. Thirty years later from the bridge building days, T. M. Burke, in conjunction with the State Government (Queensland) build the David Low Highway, connecting Noosa Heads in the north to Sunshine and Peregian Beaches to the south. T. M. Burke proposed the development of Hays Island (at the rear of Hastings Street) in Noosa and Noosaville, an up-market canal development completed in the 1980s - known as “Noosa Sound”.  The firm was involved in lots of real estate development.  T. M. Burke worked closely with Cardno & Davies, Civil Engineering, who had an office in Maroochydore, a little further south on the coast. Cardno & Davies were also involved in the development of canals on the Gold Coast as well as the Sunshine Coast. From a humble beginning in 1945 Cardno is now a worldwide company…more information below for those who are interested in their history.

On that sunny day in late May/early June I walked into the small office of T. M. Burke Real Estate Developers, Peregian Beach. Why not, I thought.  It looked like a nice little office. I had to start my job search somewhere, and it may as well be there. Upon entering the premises I introduced myself to the young lass at the front desk, and then asked if it was possible for me to see the manager. Fortunately, for me, my timing was perfect.  David Young, the manager was in his office, twiddling his thumbs because within moments I was sitting before him and he looked as if he was prepared to hear my story; to listen to my request.  It was a simple question.  I asked him if he had a vacancy; if he had the need to employ another employee. After giving him an abbreviated version of my past working history, to my surprise, he said that, in fact, he was looking for a secretary. 

Well, there you go!  Sometimes luck does sit upon your shoulder – or mine!

David hired me on the spot, more or less.  I started working for him, as his secretary, within T. M. Burke Estates Pty. Ltd., Land Developers, Peregian Beach office (Head Office in New South Wales) the following day!  Janet, the young receptionist was as shell-shocked as I was.  She was unaware he’d had in his mind hiring himself a secretary.  Until I'd walked into his office I think it had only been a passing thought with him, too.  My presence had jolted him into putting his idea into action.
When Randall arrived home from his job later in the day he became the third surprised person.  It had happened so quickly.  In the morning when he’d driven off to Kawana he had no idea I’d even planned to go out in search of a job that day. 

Hi! Ho! Hi! Ho! It was back to work I went!   

The holiday was over, but not regretfully so.  It was time to rejoin the real world.  In truth, living and working at the coast, in the late Seventies/early Eighties, anyway, the “real world” was still miles away. 

Again, Sasha and Ruska were left to their own devices during the day.  They didn’t seem to mind that their fresh fish supplies had tapered off to nil. Having interior access to the lower level of the home that housed the double garage, laundry and storage area, they had no reason to roam the neighbourhood, or egress to do so. There was only one neighbour, anyway.  One house on the lower side of my in-laws’ home, our temporary abode housed Mary, a lovely, gentle, elderly widow.  Mary, too, missed out on her fresh fish because we’d always shared part of our catch with her.  Our fishing days were put on the back burner. Earning a living was once again our priority.

Beneath the brick home of Randall’s parents, on the upper side of the land on which the house was built, the area was bare dirt, not concrete flooring like the garage, laundry areas etc., so Sasha and Ruska had their own private, uninterrupted, accessible ablutions’ block.  It was a safe haven for them during our absences.   
During their waking hours, or minutes, when lounging out on the front verandah they had a view to the ocean and to Mooloolaba to the south. What more could they ask for?  More fresh fish, I guess….but they never lodged a complaint….

Randall and I were constantly on the look-out for a property to call our own. We came within a hair’s breadth of buying a house in Buderim, a small township up behind Alexandra Headlands, but in the eleventh hour before signing the contract, the deal fell over, through no fault of ours. Situated on a fabulous, private block of land, it was a solidly-built Queenslander. We were disappointed when the sale fell through, but as it turned out it was a blessing in disguise. Fate had a better plan in store for us.

We’d always said: “If we’re going to live at the coast, we must live close to the beach; where we have a view of the ocean.”  We didn’t need much convincing to stick to our mantra.

A few months after our relocation from Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast we found and purchased a house at Elanda Street, Sunshine Beach.  Immediately falling in love with it, we knew it was the house for us.  The house wasn’t by any means of one’s imagination flash, but it did exude a special, sunny, happy atmosphere. 
Central stairs led to the upper level of the house.  The upstairs level consisted of two bedrooms and a large open area that included an open-plan kitchen and dining space. Off from the dining area was a small deck.  From the kitchen, dining and deck we had our much-longed for ocean view. The lower, ground level of the dwelling was of similar size. The downstairs area housed the bathroom, toilet, indoor laundry and a large “family” room (not a large family…but a large room…no large family came with the house when we purchased it)! 

Around the same time or thereabouts of Randall and I finding the house in Elanda Street, L. J. Hooker Real Estate took over the T.M. Burke operation in Peregian Beach.  David Young, who was a wonderful man to know and to work for, went onto other pastures, and the new manager of the new set-up was a Terry Cranitch.

The Elanda Street, Sunshine Beach house with its north-easterly aspect was perfectly situated. Sitting on the elevated end of the land, the house was quite a distance from the lower the street-level entrance to the property.  Entering the property from the street, midway along the land was a neglected greenhouse. Opposite the greenhouse was a free-standing garage. Between the greenhouse and garage about four stairs led up to the elevated level of the property to where the house sat in all its glory, patiently waiting for Randall, Sasha, Ruska and me to move in.  Oh…and Winston, the Barn Owl, too!

Situated atop the well-vegetated secondary sand dune line formed many, many decades earlier inland within walking distance from the beach, the house was privately placed in a quiet area. On either side of the property were neighbouring homes, but the houses had been erected in a manner that none infringed upon the privacy of the other. 

Also, because the property we bought was been built on the high end of the long block, the street and houses that we classed as being at the “front” of our new home (being the ocean side) were well below our block.  Except for filtered glimpses through the rather dense vegetation (which included many glorious tree ferns) on the dune we were “perched on” down to Duke Street, “the street below”, the houses dotted along Duke Street couldn’t be seen from our newly-acquired dwelling. And as the house we purchased was up at the far end of the land, the houses across Elanda Street on the other side were a good distance away.   

Eagerly we signed on the dotted line even knowing the house required a lot of renovating, but the knowledge didn’t deter us.  . Our excitement over our find was palpable.

The week prior to us leaving the Coolum house was spent busily gathering all our possession together in readiness for the move to Sunshine Beach on the Saturday.  On the Wednesday night prior to our changing abodes, driving back from Nambour via Bli Bli and through back roads amongst the sugar cane farms Randall came across a bird on the road.  He'd noticed a car ahead of him hit something. The vehicle ahead failed to stop, but Randall pulled off the side of the road, leaving his headlights on. As he approached the fallen creature he discovered it was an owl. He picked up the owl believing it was dead, but he wanted to remove it from the road. It wasn't a well-used road at that time of the night but Randall didn't want any future vehicles running over it again and again. Picking the owl up. suddenly it wrapped its claws around Randall’s fingers. It was still alive.

As soon as he arrived home Randall called out to me to go downstairs because he had something to show me.  He lifted up the boot (trunk) of the car and there wrapped in a towel was the startled (and stunned) bird in wide-eyed wonderment; as was I, too!  We didn’t have any bird cages, but we did have a couple of mud crab pots, so we put the bird in one of them. 

At that stage we didn’t know what type of owl it was, but we knew someone who was an expert in all things native and wild, so the first thing we did the next day was ring Hardy Buzzacott telling him the story and giving him a description of the owl.  We needed to know what to feed the beautiful bird until we were able to get it back on its feet/wings again.  It wasn’t badly injured; more in shock than anything.  There were no visible wounds. It was Hardy who told us we had a Barn Owl in our presence. Amongst their diet they eat insects, so insects are what we gave “Winston”.  We called our guest after Winston Churchill.  There was a similarity in appearance! 

Hardy Buzzacott had been the manager of Radio Station 4GY, Gympie when Randall was a radio announcer at the station, years earlier. Mr. Buzzacott had been his boss.  He, Hardy Buzzacott, was a fine gentleman. Throughout the 50s, 60s and 70s he was well known for his wildlife interests, activities and knowledge.  He was one of the earlier “Wildlife Warriors”, long before Steve Irwin, or even his father Bob became known.  Mr. Buzzacott had retired to the coast and was living down Maroochydore way or thereabouts when we contacted him about Winston.

Every time we checked on Winston, and when we fed him, he’d rock back and forth making a throaty “ticking” sound. It sounded like when you click your tongue on the roof of your mouth.  Winston displayed no fear, but he did keep a keen eye on us.  I honestly believe he knew he was in safe hands, and he was grateful for being rescued.

Come Saturday, the move from one beach to another; from one house to another was conducted like a military manouvre!  We had three cars (the Ford Cortina Ghia, “Remy”, the MG Magnette and “Tonto” the EH station wagon), two humans, Randall and me; two cats, Sasha and Pushkin; and Winston, the Barn Owl.  It was probably more like a circus on the move!  It sure felt like it!

Randall, driving the Cortina, led the procession.  I followed in “Tonto” laden with potted plants, two cats and a Barn Owl in a mud crap pot! I felt as if I was in camouflage stuck somewhere in the middle of jungle warfare!  I’m sure all that anyone could see was an old red and white (with wooden panelling along its sides) EH wagon filled to the brim with greenery mysteriously travelling north along the David Low Way with nobody in the driving seat.  I could barely be seen through the vegetation!  Such a strange vision travelling along could also have been considered as being similar to the “Mary Celeste”;

Later a return trip was made to the Coolum house to pick up the Magnette. Remy was also a valued member of the troupe, and couldn’t be left behind.

Some houses welcome you with open arms (walls).  You know you just have to become a part of that special house when you find it; if you’re lucky enough to stumble across it.  It doesn’t have to be a mansion on a hill; it doesn’t have to be fancy.  Our house in Elanda Street, Sunshine Beach was neither a mansion on a hill, nor was it fancy, but it was on the top side of the block of land; a good distance from the street.  It had a view of the ocean.  It offered privacy, and it was just a fun house.  I often mention “ambience”.  The house we’d bought in Sunshine Beach oozed ambience by the truckload! 

Sasha and Ruska obviously felt it, too, because they entered the house as if they’d been there before.  They weren’t at all spooked by the disruption to their morning; or the car trip. After a brief scan of each room, both cats found a spot and settled down for the day, leaving the unpacking etc., to the two humans.  After all, that’s what we were for…Ruska and Sasha had done their bit.  They’d given their nod of approval.
Winston, still in his crab pot was put into the old greenhouse while we went about our business.  Late in the afternoon, we left the “door” on the crab pot open so Winston could come and go in the greenhouse at his own will.

Around 10 that evening, Randall and I ready to go to sleep after a fairly busy day, driving back and forth, unloading the cars etc., heard strange noises echoing up from the greenhouse.  Grabbing a torch/flashlight we scurried down to find out what the disturbance was all about.  Winston was rocking from side to side, making a more threatening noise than his usual clicking sound. It was a deep, loud, guttural hissing noise; not one that would attract new friends!  Standing a few feet from him was a black cat with its tail about three times its usual size and the fur on its back was raised like a Mohawk.  The cat backed out of the greenhouse slowly, and once out the door, it ran off as quick as lightning.  It just wanted to get out of there rapidly and well away from whatever the weird feathered creature was.  We never saw that cat again.

The next morning Winston was gone.  We never saw him again, either, but we did hear him often at night, particularly when we were sitting out on the deck.  We were certain it was Winston, and that he’d remained in the area. No doubt he had found a suitable surfer chick.  Barn Owls mate for life, and if, by no fault of his own, he’d left a mate down Bli Bli way, I’m sure eventually she found a new mate; and I’m sure Winston was happy with his Sunshine Beach surfer girl.  One would hope so, anyway!

We used to joke the house had been built by a mob of drunks on a weekend…probably from left-over builders’ materials they’d snatched from the local dump.  That was part of its unique, contagious charm, I think.  And I say “contagious” because every visitor we had to our humble home unconsciously and helplessly fell under its spell.  And, no! The effects of the many fun dinner parties we hosted in that house weren’t entirely to blame.  The house, its situation…the view…all melded together wonderfully.  There was an infectious vibe about the property.  It may not have been fancy, but it radiated joy and goodwill…intangibles that no amount of money can buy.

Sasha’s cough remained, but it didn't affect him otherwise.  Sasha was in excellent health, other than his "smoker's cough".  

 He’d wander past visitors to our home on his way to a new resting spot coughing and spluttering as he strolled by, oblivious to the company.  The shocked looks on their faces caused us to break out in laughter.  We’d explain the situation and that, no, Sasha wasn’t about to expire!

Ruska and Sasha never wandered far, preferring to stick close to home and to us.  After all, they had a deck with an ocean view and the morning sun.  They had easy access in and out of the house. They could always be found snuggled up in the filtered sun beneath a tree or somewhere inside the house, either upstairs or downstairs.  Usually, downstairs during when Randall and I were there.  They never strayed far from where we were at any given time; or from each other.

Not long after we settled into Elanda Street, we converted the large, downstairs room into an office.  We painted the walls and ceiling; laid sea-grass matting on the floor; installed a couple of desks.  Randall had a beautiful wooden one specially handmade by a local craftsmen for him to work at.  We opened our own real estate agency – “Randall George Real Estate”.

More about our new venture/adventure in Chapter Seven.


  1. How I love owls. You, and Winston were both very lucky.
    I hear you on some homes being welcoming from the get go. Others the opposite. I would never, ever buy a house (no matter the price) which felt wrong.

  2. Winston was a beautiful owl and so lucky to have been picked up and brought to your home. The house on Elanda Street sounds so perfect. I've moved a lot and while not actively searching for that "perfect place", I still wish to one day find it. Maybe in my next life.
    I like hearing that Sasha and Ruska just walked in and settled down. That's good vibes right there. Cats know.

  3. Hi there, EC. Owls are quite incredible. I think they're wonderful, too. The Elanda Street house needed work done to it, which we got stuck into...but even as it was when we first bought it, as raggedy as it was special.

    Thanks for dropping in. :)

  4. Oh, he was, River. Winston was just great. We were sad that he went, but also very pleased and happy that he was free and well.

    I've moved a lot through the years, too, River....I've lived in a couple of exceptional places...and none of them were mansions...they were just "special". And I think that is what matters...not all the marble and gold-leaf fittings. The only way now I'll find that special place of my own is to win the Lotto...but in the meantime, I rent my little cabin and am thankful I have privacy, quiet and a roof over my head and a safe haven for Remy and Shama (my two furry rascals...not two cars)! :)

    Thanks for coming by. :)

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Another stonking good read Lee. You have a knack of making trivial domestic matters appear interesting through your writing. And there' a nostalgic sense of looking back through the mists of time to the best years of your life - when you were in the middle of the river.

    "They ate side by side sharing their stories..." probably about mice and garden birds and their fawning human "owners" - that's if we believe we can ever truly "own" cats.

  7. Hi Yorky...I'm glad you enjoyed my ramblings. Sometimes I think I probably bore everyone with them...I do hope that's not the case. Thanks for your comment. :)

    1. No way Lee. I am not just being polite. You have the ability to tell a good story via the written word. That ability is pretty rare.

  8. Lovely story, Lee. I especially enjoyed reading about Winston -- and the kitties. So glad Winston survived his ordeal and presumably lived happily ever after.:)

  9. G'day Serena...I'm glad you're enjoying my never-ending cat is long tail...oops, tale...and one not yet finished.

    Winston, in the short time that he spent in our lives, was a most welcome visitor.

    Thanks for coming by. :)

  10. I guess I was really impressed by your story of walking into a company and getting a job just like that - has never happened to me!
    I love owls - we have one in the back yard.
    Some homes are welcoming from the get go. Others the opposite.Wonder what it is?

  11. Hi Sandie...just perfect timing, I think...right time...right office...right people...we clicked from the get-go...just like old friends! Bit like the house, in a way, I guess.

    Thanks for coming in. Take care. :)

  12. Wow, you have done everything, haven't you? Waiting for the next chapter!

  13. Yes, I guess I did do a few different through the years, RK. I started working at 15 years...about four months shy of turning 16. I liked some challenges, I prove to myself I could do them.

    Thanks for dropping in. :)

  14. Great story! I can't imagine how freaked out Randall must have been when the owl grabbed his fingers. I would think it rather comforting to have your own owl in the backyard.

  15. Lovely story and love the owls!

  16. Hey there Dexter ("Dexter" is one of my favourite TV series...and character...and I can't help but think of him every time I see your comments)! :)

    Yes, I think Randall did get a shock at first, but he soon recovered and I was so pleased that he brought Winston home with him. He wouldn't have left him behind, though. He's as big a softie as I am when it comes to things like that. It was great hearing Winston in the nearby trees at night; and we were sure it was him.

    Thanks for coming by. :)

  17. Hiya Pat....glad you're enjoying my story. Owls are exquisite creatures, that's for sure.

    Thanks for coming by...I hope all is well with you. Take good care. :)

  18. Those owls- what strange and somehow spooky faces they have, like pictures i have seen of Japanese ghosts
    No, I have never been able to figure out why some houses are nice and welcoming and others are not.

  19. Winston looked so wise, Jenny. We fell in love with him immediately. It was the closest I'd ever been to a real owl...and I've never again been that close to one since...physically I mean. He certainly was an interesting creature to watch.

    Thanks for coming by. :)

  20. Acting upon spontaneous whims have often been followed by trips to an emergency room for me. Sigh.

  21. That's a shame, Jerry. Touch wood...that's not happened to me when acting spontaneously. I hope I've not spoken too soon!

    Thanks for coming by. :)

  22. I want a house by the sea with cats and owls hooting nearby!
    It's no fair!!!

  23. Another interesting read. Never had an Owl but I did have a chicken hawk and a baby raccoon. Peace

  24. So do I Adullamite. - so do I. It''s definitely no fair that you and I can't have that...separately, of course. You can have the house next door. Same view; different houses. We could share a cup of coffee every now and then...a tea if you prefer!

    Thanks for coming by. :)


  25. Hi there Lady Di...that's the only time I've had an owl, too. I rescued a baby kookaburra once and a couple of baby hares, but that's about it for me in the wildlife care department. I've not seen a chicken hawk in years and years; not since I was a kid.

    Thanks for popping in. :)

  26. Replies
    1. I'll see what I can organise, Adullamite...when I win the Lotto! :)

  27. I always love reading about your adventures and sorry to be so late to the party. I've hardly had time to breathe the last several days, but here I am now. Having a quiet day at home.

    Love that you found such a fun house - I know exactly what you mean. And love that Sasha and Ruska loved it, too. So kind of you and Russell to take in Winston.

  28. Good to hear from you, apologies needed.

    Thanks for dropping in. :)